The ancient discriminatory practise of slave and Freeborn otherwise known in Igbo culture as Osu or in Nkanu, in Enugu State, as Ohu has finally been abolished in the community.
The practice which segregated the so-called slaves from intermarrying with Freeborns or becoming leaders in their communities or traditional rulers is still being observed in many parts of Nkanu and beyond. Osu/Ohu or slaves are regarded as inferior and subservient to Freeborns. In the real practice of the caste system, an ohu does not merit or aspire to be a leader or traditional ruler of his community and does not marry an amadi or vice-versa. In certain communities, the ohu live in clusters, isolated from their masters; and in the very primitive era, were used for human sacrifices if the demand arose.
The coming of Christianity whittled down some of the practice and sufferings of Ohu caste system like human sacrifices but today they are still much marginalised and excluded in most dignified cultural norms and functions.
However, history was made in Ozalla community on March 31, 2018, when Ndi jinze, (the custodians of culture and tradition), traditional rulers, town union leadership together with all other stakeholders in the community, agreed to do away with the obnoxious past, performed traditional rites to discard the ancient practice and created equal social status among all indigenes of the community.
This was immediately followed by a symbolic Christian ceremony marking the freedom for the previous ohus which was consummated last Saturday with a symbolic marriage, interdenominational church service and merry-making among the people.
Dignitaries of Nkanuland were present at the ceremony to indicate their support for progress. They included the Second Republic civilian Governor of old Amabra State, Senator Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, Nigeria’s foremost Power expert and former Minister for Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji among many others. Businessmen from the community and from other parts of Nkanuland, the academia, politicians and people from all walks of life graced the occasion. The clergy were in their numbers led by the Archbishop of Anglican Communion, His Grace, Most Rev. (Dr) Emmanuel Chukwuma; representative of the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese; Methodist Archbishop of Enugu Diocese, Rt. Rev (Barr) Christopher Edeh; Methodist Bishop Emeritus, Most Rev. M. U Ogoh; Chairman of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, in Enugu State, Bishop (Dr.) Godwin Madu among others.
Speaking at the ceremony, the traditional ruler of Umuanee- Ozalla, HRH Igwe Crescent Okafor, noted that the entire community has spoken with one voice to abolish the system that promotes social segregation.
On his part, the President-General, Ozalla Development Union and Chairman, Ozalla Development Committee, Chief Afam Ani traced the tortuous journey to the desegregation, unification, oneness and love in Ozalla to one Okwudili Chianake who in February 2017 approached him with God’s instruction that the caste system should be abolished. “Instantly, we agreed to form a tag team and pursued this project with tenacity,” said Ani who noted that the traditional rulers gave a nod to it which brought about the formation of a committee named: Project for the Abolition of Segregation in Ozalla, PASO.